Reducing festive food waste

festive food: cookies and oranges

Reducing festive food waste

Prepare for a not so jolly festive fact… over the festive season the UK throws away the equivalent of 74 million mince pies in food waste!

The festive period is short but includes a whole sweep of holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year. During these seasonal celebrations, millions of tonnes of food will be left uneaten and thrown in the bin.

Food wasted at Christmas is the equivalent of:

  • 2 million turkeys 🦃
  • 5 million Christmas puddings 🍮
  • 74 million mince pies 🥧
  • And £67 million worth of oranges (there’s always one in the Christmas stocking!) 🍊

We’re sure it won’t take much convincing to show you that these numbers are way too high. So, what can we do?

How to reduce your festive food waste

A family clink their glass to say cheers during Christmas dinner

Try these tips from our rubbish experts to reduce the amount of wasted food, reuse festive leftovers and recycle any unavoidable food waste.

Only buy and cook as much as you need

A Kwanzaa dinner table

Overbuying and overcooking is so common during the festive season it almost feels like a tradition. But in reality, it is a waste of food and money. Avoid overbuying by planning each meal and the number of portions you need before you go to the shops. The BBC’s Christmas portion planner can help you work out how much to cater for larger groups.

Avoid overcooking by sticking to your portion planner. You can also cook large batches of food in advance and freeze them in portion sizes, so you only need to defrost the amount needed at mealtime.

Don’t shop when you’re hungry and always have a list

A man consults his shopping list in a food shop

Plan your meals in advance and stick to your shopping list. Include treats in your shopping list so you’re not tempted to buy more than you need in the shop.

Check your list against what you have in the cupboards, make sure you aren’t duplicating anything you already have.

Is there anything that you buy every year that you find yourself throwing away before it’s been eaten? Consider leaving regular “waste offenders” off the list, or go for smaller amounts that will get eaten. Sure, Christmas pudding is a classic, but do you, your family or friends actually like it?

Make your festive treats from scratch

Home made Hanukkah cookies being cut out of pastry

One way to cut down on the packaging is to have a go at making some of your own festive treats. Things like Christmas cakes, puddings and mince pies can be made weeks in advance. Some foods like pastries, sauces, and stuffing can be made and frozen. Check out BBC Good Food’s A Freezer Guide to Christmas for recipes.

Make space in your freezer for leftovers

Bags of vegetables in a freezer

If you always have leftovers, you better make room for them. Go through your frozen food in the weeks before Christmas and make space in the freezer by finally using up that bulky shoulder joint and bag of broccoli.

Freeze leftovers quickly and move anything near it’s use-by date to the freezer

Portions of food being put into a freezer

Speaking of your freezer, use it lovingly. If the use-by date is coming up, freezing food can buy you some extra time. Almost anything can be frozen, including smoked salmon, vegetables and dairy products.

Learn a new leftover recipe this year, it might just become a favourite!

A plate of bubble and squeak (potato and vegetable cakes)

Leftovers are perfect for the following day’s lunch – who doesn’t love a bubble and squeak? You can even get creative and use the roast turkey in a curry – there’s one to please everyone in this article. Our friends at Big Oven and Love Food Hate Waste have some fantastic leftovers recipe ideas that you should really check out.

Share surplus food

A smiling woman holding a brown paper bag full of food


If you realise you’ve bought too much food, your local food bank might be grateful for the donation. You can also use the app Olio to share leftovers that you won’t have time to eat with local people.

Use your food waste recycling bin

A Bristol Waste food recycling bin

Tea bags, egg shells, peelings should all go into your brown food waste bin so they can be transformed into energy for Bristol. Don’t have a bin or caddy? Order one on the Bristol City Council website.

Recycling your food is easy, simply put your food waste into compostable liners, wrap in newspaper or use a small carrier bag in your kitchen caddy. When it’s full, tie or wrap it up and place into your food bin for us to collect on recycling day.

Don’t forget to check your collection days

Recycling and general waste collection days change over the festive period. You can find out about changes to normal collections, and the Christmas tree collection day for your street on our website. Download your calendar

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